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Chesapeake Renews Rivalry with Boston at Champ Weekend

March 18, 2016
ANNAPOLIS, MD- To suggest the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Boston Cannons have some postseason history would be an understatement.

In 2010, Boston came to Annapolis riding high after capturing the regular season championship and was promptly upset by a Chesapeake club that had to win its final game to get into the playoffs. The host Bayhawks would go on to beat the Long Island Lizards to garner their third title, marking the first time in Major League Lacrosse history that a No. 4 seed accomplished that feat.

It was a similar story in 2011, but this time top-seeded Boston took care of business and beat fourth-seeded Chesapeake, rallying from a big early deficit to earn a thrilling 14-13 victory on a last-second goal by attackman Max Quinzani. The Cannons then captured the first MLL championship in franchise history by defeating Hamilton at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

For the third straight year, the Bayhawks and Cannons will meet in a semifinal at Major League Lacrosse Championship weekend, and if recent history is any indication, the winner may wind up hoisting the Steinfeld Cup. This time, the roles will be reversed from the previous two seasons as second-seeded Chesapeake (10-4) must take on third-seeded Boston (9-5) on its home field of Harvard Stadium.

“We’ve had a great rivalry with Boston over the years and our two games this season were certainly very competitive. I expect another intense, hard-fought game,” Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle said. “We’re playing on the road against the defending champions so this is going to be a stiff challenge. Boston absolutely has the home-field advantage, but that is not insurmountable. We have a very veteran team so I’m not real worried about how our players will react to a hostile environment. Nothing would be better than making sure that crowd is quiet in the fourth quarter.”

Goalkeeper Kip Turner stonewalled his former team with 17 saves while midfielder Michael Kimmel totaled five points as Chesapeake edged Boston, 14-13, on June 23 rd in Annapolis. Attackman Ryan Boyle piled up eight points while midfielder Paul Rabil finished with five points as the Cannons captured the second regular season meeting, 16-13, at Harvard Stadium.

Rabil was a repeat selection as MLL Offensive Player of the Year after setting the single-season scoring record with 72 points. Boyle recorded a career-high 58 points with 39 of them coming off assists. Cottle said it’s no secret that the key to beating Boston is to contain those two players, who dominate the ball and use their dodging ability to set up teammates.

“The last time we played Boston it was death by a thousand wounds. Rabil was a handful and we had to slide to him. When we did that, Rabil moved the ball to Boyle, who then found the open man,” Cottle said. “We need to keep Rabil to one side of the field and prevent him from breaking down our defense. We need to deny Boyle the ball as much as possible and make him earn his possessions.”

Attackman Matt Poskay is a tremendous off-ball threat who led the league in goal scoring with 38 while midfielder Kevin Buchanan (42 points) is another dangerous dodger.

Chesapeake has plenty of firepower of its own with midfielder Kyle Dixon leading a very balanced offense with 48 points. Dixon, a perennial All-Star, set the single-season record for 2-point goals with 15.

Kimmel and fellow midfielder Steven Brooks are tied for second on the team in scoring with 36 points with attackmen Drew Westervelt (33 points) and John Grant, Jr. (32) following close behind.

“Chesapeake presents a huge challenge with some of the guys they have offensively. They have a very strong group of midfielders that are very tough to defend,” Boston head coach Steve Duffy said. “I think it’s a lot about what we do offensively. Possessing the ball is huge. We’re going to try to keep it out of their hands.”

Statistically, Chesapeake has a slight edge in the goal as Turner leads the MLL in goals-against average (10.51) and ranks second in save percentage (.544). Boston’s Jordan Burke stands second in total saves (181) and third in goals-against average (11.26).

A huge key could come at the face-off stripe where Boston’s Chris Eck has been the league’s best this season, winning percent (223-381) of draws. Adam Rand (184-345) has capably handled face-offs all season for Chesapeake, but could be replaced in the lineup on Saturday by Alex Smith.

Smith, who ranks fifth in MLL history with 870 career face-off wins, sat out almost the entire regular season while recovering from elbow surgery. Smith returned for the regular season finale against Denver and showed he’s still among the best by capturing 7 of 13 draws in the second half.

“I think the specialty units are going to be critical in this contest. Goalkeeping, face-offs, extra man offense – if either team dominates any one of those areas it’s going to really affect the outcome,” Cottle said. “We cannot foul a lot because Boston is really good on extra man. We’re probably going to need Kip Turner to make at least 15 saves and we have to hold our own in the face-off game.”

The Bayhawks have released 2013 Season Tickets to the public. Call your ticket representative and reserve your seat today and see the Bayhawks battle at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this summer.